Friday, May 29, 2009

the other spelling bee

While last night was the Scripps Bee -- the national one, from Washington --it was also the school district bee. Louisa had won her school's bee, so she was competing. It was exciting and she was nervous. So was her mama. She's only in the fourth grade and was one of the youngest spellers (and she was the first fourth grader to win at her school). This was a big deal.

She made it through the first round with the word "ventilate." I could breathe for a bit -- and I'm sure she could, too. Then in the second round she got "affinity." I could tell right away she was unsure how to spell it. She asked for the origin and took a breath and left out one of the "f"s. I have to say, it is very hard to keep a calm, uninterested face when you know after the third letter that your child has just messed up. She was obviously upset when the judges held up their red cards to indicate that she wasn't successful in her attempt. She walked off stage and apparently they gave her a cookie and our school principal was right there to comfort her a bit and let her decompress before sending her back out to the audience. Lou said, "Mrs. Hudson was saying something to me, Mama. And I tried to look at her attentively, but I couldn't understand anything she said because I was so sad."

She sat on my lap through the third round and whispered how to spell each word. Correctly -- the child knew all the words following her miss. As I told her a little later, there's an element of luck in a spelling bee. Sometimes you just get a word you don't know or can't figure out. Them's the breaks. But we had frozen yogurt and she perked up a little.

Bless her heart, she wrote "affinity" on the back of her nametag. Right before bed, she got gloomy again and started to project how the other kids at school would tease her for losing. I told her she might be surprised and that I was sure her friends would be very sympathetic. She said, "Yeah, my friends and I have an affinity for each other."

And you and I have an affinity for each other, too, baby. We're all so proud of you. You'll do even better next year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the baby pandas killed us dead

I recorded a show on the local PBS channel about twin pandas born in a panda reserve in China called Panda Nursery. (You think I've exhausted the use of the word "panda?" You have no idea.) I was watching it with the girls and it was hilarious. You know how they show little mini-clips on PBS shows before the "corporate sponsorship" (read: commercials) spots but before the show proper? Yeah, it was a festival of aaawww-ing. They showed the baby pandas on a platform and then they were trying to get down a ladder and they tumbled all over each other and I said, "Oh, my gosh! I just died from the cuteness!" And then the next brief shot was the two little guys drinking milk out of bowls and when they looked up? Milk all over their unbelievably cute panda faces! And we all aaawwww-ed some more and Bebe said, "I just came back to life and died AGAIN from the cuteness! So cute!"

When the show actually, really started, they had so worn us down with the little cute vignettes, that the girls were brainwashed into thinking the newborn pandas were cute, too. Which they are not. They are just these naked, pink things which are really, really disturbing. From one angle, they looked like deformed starfish. But the girls were still all gooey from the previous glimpses of true and abiding panda cub cuteness and they cooed and clucked over the adorableness of the icky pink things.

The show was very informative and, yes, too too cute -- except for a few things. Did you know that panda cubs are unable to toilet by themselves for months? I did not. Their mother (or, in this case, their mother and the human handlers) have to encourage them to pee and poop. The people stroke the panda bellies, which isn't too bad. But the mother licks the babies and then they eliminate and it is pretty gross.

And near the end, since this was a nature animal documentary, there was some business about panda mating. The girls said that was disgusting and they insisted that I fast forward through it -- so we could get to some more adorable bits with the twin panda cubs.

(I also have to get to China because there was a bit where they showed tourists visiting the center and they showed a Western woman who got to sit on a bench RIGHT NEXT TO A PANDA! She got to pet and hug it! I think I really need to do this before I die. Can you imagine? I might actually really die -- but I would get to pet and hug a real, live panda!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

newbie white belt

I started taking kajukenbo a few weeks ago, and it's ripping good fun. Charlotte and I are both taking class together. Tuesdays and Thursdays are killer long evenings. I pick up the kids, we all suit up in our gis and double check that we have our belts and stuff and we head out. The twins take a class and I help Cha with her homework. Then Charlotte runs around a little and the twins take sparring and I read (or usually watch sparring class, which is hugely entertaining). Then the twins talk with friends or read or finish up homework while ChaCha and I take our class. Then we come home and shovel food into our starving maws and before you know it, it's time for the kids to go to bed.

As a white belt, we have to learn 12 squat sets (I've got those down), a pinyon (also known as a kata or form -- also nailed down), and three self-defense sequences (done). As an adult, I have to know two more self-defense sequences and another kata known as a coordination. (The two added self-defense bits -- called "knives" and "covers" -- and the coordinations are taught when a student is 14 or older.) Last night, one of the brown belts was teaching me the first coordination. When I took a break to have some water, his little sister, who is an orange belt, was talking to me and said, "Have you learned the coordination yet?" I told her no, it took a lot of practice for me to get all the moves and timing into my old, hard brain and my ache-y body, unlike her, who probably could watch any move and do it and know it in about five minutes. She laughed and I said, "It's because your brain is all squishy and sponge-like and you just suck that stuff up and it's really easy. But. I get to learn coordinations and knives and covers at each belt and slowly -- you'll have to cram them all in once you hit 14. Ha! Old person win!"

I was telling Archie about this conversation and he laughed and said, "Awww, you're just like Kramer! Remember that Seinfeld where Kramer was talking about what a star he was in karate and then it turned out he was the only adult amongst kids? That's you!" I do feel like a freaking giant, that's for sure.

The aches and pains are pretty depressing -- as Archie said, you don't notice it until you do head rolls, but someone sneaks in and puts a load of gravel in your neck at some point. It sounds like one of those Fisher-Price popper things in my head and neck. I had my first bruise from throwing elbows and, well, this is embarrassing, but -- hitting myself. Heh.

And kicking? Completely makes your butt hurt like hell. It is also annoying when your older daughters tell you how good your moves look and then they demonstrate and they can kick over their heads. Condescending little karate robots.